July 30, 2012
LONDON - On Sunday, I had the opportunity to catch up with Cal volleyball assistant coach Jennifer Carey and swimming alum John Dorr '05. Not only was it great to see them and find out about their experience, I was surrounded by fellow Bears when I watched Dana Vollmer win the 100 butterfly and set the new world record!
Between swimming events, I had the opportunity to ask Jenn and John some questions. Here is what I learned:
For both them, London 2012 is the first Olympic Games they have attended. They made the decision to come to London last summer for a variety of reasons. In addition to John's sister living here in London, they know a number of people who will be here for the Olympic Games, including athletes, coaches and fellow fans. They are having a great experience so far. Jenn said that she loves seeing the Americans play and enjoys feeling like a part of a larger community.
Jenn and John are attending a wide variety of events, including volleyball, beach volleyball, rowing and water polo in addition to the BT Live Opening Ceremonies Concert in Hyde Park last Friday night. While they had only been to one event when I met up with them, they were excited to tell me about beach volleyball and the match they watched when Austria almost upset gold-medal favorite Brazil. They said that it was a super exciting environment. As many of you may know, beach volleyball plays in Horse Guards Parade, which is the large parade ground in the heart of Whitehall in Central London.
I asked John what it was like to be a Cal alumnus with 45 Golden Bears in the Olympics. He responded that it says a lot about the University and Cal Athletics. He also said that it is fun that our athletes are not just competing for the U.S. We have people to cheer on from multiple countries.
Jenn jumped in to add that it is pretty amazing to have so many athletes here - it feels like we are part of a very special club. She explained that it is exciting to be able to have Cal in common with all of these elite athletes.
I asked them about the look and feel of London. While John had lived in London previously, he said the energy of the games definitely gives it different feel. There are Olympic Rings and great volunteers everywhere, they explained. They love riding the tube with volunteers and getting to talk to them about which venues they are working. It is also fun to watch other spectators on the tube and figure out what events they are going to. They like the fact that the fans are mixed in with the local people of London, who are just trying to go to work every day.
Jennifer said that "her trip was almost made before she got through customs." When she woke up from nap on the flight to Heathrow, she noticed that Olympian Gary Hall Jr. was sitting in the row behind her. She was thrilled to meet him when they got off the plane.
Jennifer is headed back to California for preseason volleyball, which starts next week. I asked her what it was like to go from Olympics directly into preseason. She said that more than anything, she was inspired to train hard and work hard especially because you never know which one of your athletes will be competing at the Olympic Games next. Looking at the volleyball roster for the games this year, she has known, coached against or played with everyone on the team. The really neat thing, she said, is to see them all under one jersey now.
I am looking forward to hearing more about the rest of their trip when we all get back to Berkeley.
- Jenny Simon-O'Neill